At any given speed, we require energy to run – this physiological need of the body is known as “running economy”. Good running economy is all about expending less energy – even when you’re running farther or faster. Without it, however, you set yourself up for failure, and loads of lactic acid cramping up your leg muscles, just when you want to start the sixth round of your 2.4km run, or the last 12km in the marathon. In his book Run For Your Life!
, Dr Ben Tan, medical director and senior consultant at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre
, tells you how to give your running economy an extra boost by correcting these seven common running technique problems.
(With reference to main diagram)
1. Common Mistake: Keeping your body too upright
Correct It: Lean forward slightly
When you run, you want to channel your energy into moving forward – instead of upwards. Keeping your body too upright results in excessive vertical displacement. Direct your energy into moving ahead by leaning forward slightly. But, don’t bend over excessively. Imagine that you’ve a straight line running through your shoulder, hip and ankle – even as you’re leaning forward.
2. Common Mistake: Minimal shoulder-pelvis motion
Correct It: Rotate the shoulders and pelvis in the opposite direction
Locking your shoulders and pelvis during the running gait affects the transfer of energy. You lose the power to propel yourself forward. Correct this issue by doing the twist: Rotate the shoulders and the pelvis in opposition directions. This twisting action helps you not only to recycle energy, but also to open up your stride (without you having to land with your foot too far in front of your body).
3. Common Mistake: Extending your knee (of the leg in front) fully
Correct It: Keep your knee flexed
You may feel that you’re opening up your stride and going faster when you’ve the knee of your front leg fully extended. But when you do that, you’re forcing your front foot to land too far in front of your body’s centre-of-gravity. This results in a braking motion each time your front foot strikes the ground. Beat the needless braking by swinging your elbows further back. This will help you to lift your knees higher and also to keep your front knee flexed on impact.
4. Common Mistake: Foot strike too far in front of your torso
Correct It: Keep your foot under your body
When your foot lands too far in front of your body, a braking motion is created, slowing you down and making running more effortful. Stop applying the brakes on your running: Make contact with the ground with your foot under your body (your centre-of-gravity).
5. Common Mistake: Bounding excessively
Correct It: Increase running cadence and lean forward
While some vertical displacement is necessary to help with the transfer of energy during your run, excessive bounding wastes the energy which could otherwise be channeled into moving forward. Unless you’re Superman trying to take to the skies minimise vertical displacement by leaning forward slightly and increasing your running cadence (number of times each of your foot touches the ground in a minute).
6. Common Mistake: Excessive butt-kick
Correct It: Minimise back kick
You waste energy – and precious time – when you allow your foot to travel to your butt during your running gait. While you should keep your knee flexed, there’s no need to bend it excessively as your leg cycles through the running gait motion.
7. Common Mistake: Swinging your foot out sideways
Correct It: Keep your limbs aligned
Don’t swing your foot out sideways when you kick it back. Not only does this make you look strange, it’s also a waste of energy because this action does not contribute, in any way, to helping you move forward. To keep your body more streamlined, ensure that your limbs aligned to your body during your running gait.